Spiders are an important group of animals. They occur in all terrestrial ecosystems with many species and individuals, contribute considerably to the biodiversity of a habitat and as predatory organisms they exert an important regulatory function. Spiders are therefore a very important indicator group for the quality of a habitat.
Although the spiders of several regions in Europe have been thoroughly researched, arachnology has remained a rather secretive science. Before 1991 there was no identification book which covered all central European species. Admittedly, there was a very good account in Dahl’s Tierwelt Deutschlands thanks to the work of Wiehle and other researchers, but this work dragged on for almost 40 years, was never completed, and the first parts hardly came up to the required standard. Furthermore, probably only about half the existing species were covered and recent changes to the nomenclature could of course not be taken into account. Users had to rely on a large number of other treatises to identify spiders; at best revisions of genera or families, but often publications of first descriptions. This primary literature is unwieldy and is a poor starting place for beginners: even specialists often have trouble with it.
With the publication of Spinnen Mitteleuropas (“Central European Spiders”) in 1991 (Editors Stefan Heimer and Wolfgang Nentwig, Paul Parey Publishing, Berlin), 14 contributors presented a comprehensive identification book for Central Europe. By 1998 the new editorial group of Theo Blick, Ambros Hänggi, Christian Kropf and Wolfgang Nentwig started to prepare Central European Spiders for the Internet and adapted it to the current stand of knowledge. Later we realised that the initial HTML version was not useful any more and that the Central European focus was too narrow. Therefore, starting in 2006, we begun to transfer our information into a database, our geographical frame was enlarged to the whole of Europe, and Daniel Gloor joined the editorial group. The Wiki function enables each user to submit corrections and additions which are, prior to publication on the internet, verified by an expert. By the end of 2010, Spiders of Europe, representing the current stand of knowledge, is available for all users in English and in German.
Spiders of Europe is a joint achievement of the arachnological community. We would very much like to thank all those who supported us in many ways and who granted us the right to reproduce their figures (Copyright & Acknowledgements). By mid of 2010 this database contains information on more than 3900 European spider species from 58 families with more than 16.000 figures, 3900 distribution maps, and 600 publications. This makes Spiders of Europe to one of the largest Internet identification keys and we hope that all users of this project further contribute to it.
Wolfgang Nentwig, Theo Blick, Daniel Gloor, Ambros Hänggi, Christian Kropf
Citation: Nentwig W, Blick T, Gloor D, Hänggi A, Kropf C: Spiders of Europe. www.araneae.unibe.ch. Version of access date.